I grew up in a beautiful Toronto suburb in the east(ish) end. During my pre-teen years, while riding around aimlessly on my bicycle one day, I soon discovered an industrial area with lots of abandoned bricks, scrap-metal and wrecked construction vehicles not far from my home. In the cab of one of those vehicles, I explored around and found the stash of all stashes: 25-or-so porn magazines that included Hustler, Penthouse and other early-hard-core publications. For a pre-teen boy back then, I thought I’d hit the jackpot! I proceeded to haul my find to another area not far from the discovery location and stored them in – what else – another abandoned vehicle.
For a (not so) good 6 months to a year, until the mags were purloined by someone else, I saw a lot of nasty stuff and read plenty of lust-filled stories that made up the magazines contents. My adolescent sexuality was super-stoked thanks to this rather heavy exposure. But even prior to my acquiring this stash, I had stolen some Playboy mags from my brother-in-law’s place about a year before that – pretty tame in comparison with the material I found in the abandoned truck. All these sexual images and stories allured and influenced me; of that I’m certain. “How”, you might ask? Well, thanks to this exposure, I had in my head images of what I thought sex was supposed to be like or look like.
Though a Christian by age 9 ‘technically’, I went into my teen years with a lot of inappropriate content rolling around in my brain. Though I never had sex with any of my girlfriends, I was not a clean minded or chaste young man by any measure. I was very sexually active with my girlfriends and prominently disposed to personal gratification in that regard. I can clearly attribute the selfish modality of my sexual behaviours to the ‘industry porn’ I’d been exposed to.
At the end of the ’80’s, I was dumped by girlfriend number four and eventually found a sympathetic ear in a woman I would later choose to marry.
I was on the rebound and I had sexual desires that I wanted fulfilled. I soon began a lust-filled liaison with a woman I would NEVER have thought to be involved with had I been following the Lord and the wise advice in Scripture about relationships and about being unequally yoked. My first wife’s previous sexual experience made me feel like I had to ‘keep up’. Pre-marital sex ensued not long after our dating-life had begun and due to that, I felt I had to go the distance: do the right thing and get married.
As this was the premise for my marriage and not God’s will (looking back in retrospect) it started to fall apart almost right from the beginning.
Fast-forward to the mid 1990’s.
During this time I was not into porn literature/video as much as I had been during my teen years. I found the content ‘lame’ compared to what I was experiencing personally/sexually but nonetheless rented a dirty movie about once every six months or so. In the spring of the above-noted year, I began an affair with a church-goin’ woman. I had been longing for a fuller intimacy that was lacking in my marriage – spiritually, emotionally and (later in the relationship) sexually – and so this affair was the best thing to come along in a while, in my messed up head anyways. Sin is indeed pleasurable for a season, but it is always a substitution for what one really craves, deep within themselves.
One infidelity often makes it easier to be led into another. Like the forbidden fruit, it is easier to take a bite of than you thought possible prior to your actually doing so.
Here’s how it all went down: the other woman I was seeing had an sub-affair on me and so in turn, I had one her! I was sick in the soul. My faith was like what C.S. Lewis said of forgiveness, that it’s a “lovely idea, until you have someone to forgive.” Likewise, my beliefs about God, Jesus and the Bible were real and important to me, but my lifestyle and attitude had me thinking that living the Christian life was completely untenable.
The following year, I got a new computer. More distractions.
I found sexual still-images and erotic on-line stories to peruse at no financial cost. “Bonus”, I thought. But it was what I call ‘interactive porn’ that I soon found myself engaging in.
Enter the world of chat.
Internet chatting led to my meeting up with two separate women in the U.S. who were more than ready to have some articulate and intuitive fellow like me playing on their emotions and lusts.
I would have to say that in my experience, interactive porn is highly addictive and fiercely engaging. There’s another fantasy-filled brain on the other end of the line sharing your most intimate experiences – and all the while in the safety of your computer chair. The rush one gets from trying to seduce another person – married especially – is bizarre, but powerfully beguiling.
Almost 2 years after it began, I ended the ‘real-life’ affair and tried to concentrate on fixing my marriage, but I stepped into another affair yet again.
As could only be expected, my marriage ended – even without my infidelities coming to light.
In July of 199x, while approaching the millennium’s end, I met a superb gal we’ll refer to as ‘L’ who would later become my wife. But not before a lot of brokenness filled our lives due to us being Godless.
Our first big joint purchase together after us becoming a common-law couple was a computer.
As the modems got faster, and whenever free time without the ‘missus’ being around became available, I definitely was drawn to the computer for porn. Even though my relationship with L was seemingly perfect in every aspect, the bedroom included, I wanted to see what else was going on in the world of other’s sexuality. Movies were getting more explicit and the internet certainly provided more access to more visual images in the form of video. I took pride in the fact that I wasn’t into ‘creepy’ stuff like fetishes, gay or underage porn. And since I felt 100 percent committed to never having a real-life affair (on-line or otherwise) ever again, what did engaging in a little bit of fantasy/voyeurism hurt?
It’s here I would like to talk about the concept and real problem of ‘intermittent addiction’.
To use an analogy with regard to another addiction: if one does heroin just every other month, then that person has a pattern of taking heroin bimonthly. If I did heroin once in April and then again in October of the same year, then I have a pattern of semi-annual heroin use. Pattern = addiction. It doesn’t matter how un-often (not a word, but it should be!) you do something, it is still something you are doing until you don’t do it anymore. Simplistic? Yup! But to the addict, objective reality is an eel coated in butter. Addiction is saturated in denial, self-delusion and wrapped up in a ‘end-justifies-the-means’ illusion that has you thinking, ultimately, that you’re in control. Infrequent forays into inappropriate behaviours and/or what one perceives to be minimal involvement in some harmful activity has them firmly believing it’s not really a problem!
For me it was like this: “I’m okay here ’cause I’m not chatting with other real females or having a real-life affair. I’m simply empathizing with other’s pleasure via the detached safety of voyeurism”. I figured, “Hey, these couples did what they’re doing on camera by choice – what harm is there in it, as far as it affects the video’s ‘stars’, my then-common-law wife (who didn’t know what I was up to) or me for that matter?”
It’s here I have to disagree with a statement about pornography that was made in an online book on the subject:
“Look deeply into the eyes of the subjects of porn pictures, and you’ll see nothing but pain. Someone is exploiting someone else. Someone is enjoying a moment of pleasure at someone else’s expense. Whatever fantasies are being portrayed, the fantasy of mutual enjoyment is not one of them. Tenderness is not to be found. Devotion is certainly not to be found. And don’t even mention love.”
I have to say that if an on-line ‘porn-hunter’ searches the web nowadays, he or she can easily find (what certainly appears to be) loving couples quite into displaying their erotic ‘love’ for the whole planet to see. It’s as if they want to show you how it’s done. Years ago, when porn was ruled by a few powerfully controlled outfits, female objectification was prevalent and the norm (if you can call that normal!). But in many of the video sex-acts readily available to surfers today (and for the past decade) there is clearly no victimization or obvious female-objectification going.
Pornography is now unrestrained and manufactured in the bedrooms of both happily married couples as well as by those who are lasciviously promiscuous. There are now video production outfits that are headed by women intent on producing scenes/movies where women receive as much or more pleasure than men. There are thousands of couples who do their thing – proudly – and upload it for the world to access.
This ‘real-life intimacy caught on camera’ was the very thing I craved to find when surfing the net! I wanted to see what other’s real erotic love was like … through their video cam lens. That didn’t seem so perverse or wrong to me. I’m sure I thought myself to be more noble than other guys for not being into ‘negatively regarded’ types of pornography.
At this point, I’d like to offer comment on the above: if there are any guys (or gals) reading this – Christian or otherwise – who think for a minute that you are of better moral character because you are into video featuring mutually enthusiastic couples having sex, then you aren’t seeing yourself as you really are – a porn addict with lust/coveting issues. You are steeped in sin and immorality just as much as is the hard-core porn junkie, the fetish-porn junkie, the group-scene porn junkie, the abuse-porn junkie et al.
“Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.” G.K. Chesterton
The porn addict thinks – especially if (as aforementioned) they are not frequent users or into the ‘really bad stuff’ – that they can determine what the moral high-ground is. This is just another illusion among many that pornography sells to your soul.
Jesus set the bar for moral high-ground by His life-example but also by these powerfully convicting words:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28
Without a bar being set that you know with certainty to be the right height, you’ll limbo as low as you think you can go or get away with. Your mind’s eye is the first problem, your physical eye, the second.
But this is something only God can reveal to you by His Spirit.
And a word of warning here: if you really, really want God in your life – you’re going to have to let God deal with your messed up impressions and adulterous mind or He will definitely deal with them FOR you. And no, it’s not pleasant when God gets in your way. But when you do receive God’s involvement, you are going to realize just how real He is and how much He truly loves you. It’s here that my story gets even more interesting.
Early on in the 2000’s, God decided it was time for me and my then-common-law wife to get to know Him. First, he allowed L to get hooked on internet chatting with a fellow on a discussion board she was part of. She was so caught up in what I knew from my past experience to be a delusional on-line romance, I was forced to leave our home and live with my folks for a bit. But God wasn’t done with me or L. I was so broken that I could only go one of two ways: deeper into sin and self-oriented living or back into the arms of the God I had, for far too long, abandoned in my heart. He took me back like the prodigal son returning home. And, through the prayers of many, L was given back to me by His hand. It took some time for L to leave the whole chat thing alone for good, but God broke her like he did me and in time, we were both serving the Lord and attending church. We were married in a year after our rededication to our Lord and Saviour.
As we hungered more for God, we became closer as a couple and more involved in our faith and in Christ-oriented living. There was a lot of healing still taking place, but we were aware of His love and His pruning in our lives every step of the way.
But, I still had a problem. I still would resort to my ‘habit’. Whether it was once a month or once every three months, I didn’t feel porn was the worst thing to be checking out. I mean it was not like murder or violence in that there were no obvious victims, but I just would not submit to the core truth that I needed to esteem deep within my soul: our eyes and minds are not meant to be wasted in this life, just like our words, work or our creativity is not meant to be squandered willy-nilly.
Once, L had checked my web-surfing history and noted I had been viewing some rather unedifying video content. She said something that would begin to haunt me and lead me to ask God to be involved with my darker self. She said, “C’mon, you’re better than this!” She was forgiving, but discernibly disappointed. However, she respectfully left the ball in my court to deal with. I’ll never forget that. So gracious and yet very convicting.
It was after this that I ‘put it out there’ to God that if He thought this behaviour was a major problem, then He would have to deal with it. I simply didn’t care enough to. Apathy is the addict’s second best friend, next to the addiction itself, I believe. You know apathy is wrong, but you don’t care enough to fix it – yeah, I know … that sounds absolutely oxymoronic (or redundant?), but perhaps you will agree that this seems to be how we are as fallen creatures.
So, I asked God to deal with me and meant it as far as I could mean it. Many reading this know what I’m talking about, I’m sure.
In early 2008, I cut my finger so badly I couldn’t do anything with my guitar or music for a while. It was so strange. Like a slow-motion scene from a horror film, I watched the serrated knife glance off the onion I was slicing and slip right on over to my middle-finger and dig in deep. We all injure ourselves now and then, but regardless, I wondered why this particular thing had happened. It just seemed so weird and out of alignment with my normally cautious behaviour and natural adroitness when it came to my fingers!
About two months later, I was looking after someone’s dog and was attempting to ‘give him a shave’ around his hairy mouth and he suddenly dug his teeth into my fore-finger so bad I – once again – was not able to play my guitar for a while and was quite miserable while it was healing.
Did I mention that I was occasionally leading worship at the church? The injuries, of course, impacted my playing but they also frightened me. I suddenly felt very vulnerable. I pondered again, “What on earth is going on here?”
Then it struck me. The only two times I could remember delving into on-line porn during that part of the year were about a day or two before each injury event. I could trace it in my mind quite clearly. I sincerely and seriously began to wonder: “Is this God saying to me, ‘If you don’t use the hands I’ve given you for my Glory, I’ll stop them from being used for evil”?’
I confessed this all to my pastor. He prayed for me and concurred with my gut-feeling that God may be, in fact, using these events to deal with me. The New Testament, in the book of Hebrews states that God will ‘discipline the son he loves’. Was this how God was dealing with me? I was pretty sure He was, and I was awestruck by it all. What an interesting, unexpected way for God to show me His reality and His love!
Now this is not to say that if a Christian does bad things (continues in a sin) he or she is always going to get their physical bodies punished for it. However, do not think for a second God can’t or won’t do this! How else can you interpret the clear warning in the following passage:
“A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.” 1 Corinthians 11:28-33
We truly do reap what we sow whether it’s now or later. Better to deal with what we sow and reap now!
Oh, I wasn’t done testing God either. Once again, I allowed myself, in a moment of physical exhaustion due to some illness I had, to get back on-line and check out some garbage. I knew that there was a chance I would feel God’s hand again but I was just playing stupid. Figured He’d understand I was weak and exhausted.
A few days after that, I was beset by the WORST back pain I have ever known. I didn’t strain anything, wasn’t getting a chill – I just was suddenly in agony in a way I’d never been before!
Again, I wasn’t connecting right away. But about a week later I realized what God was doing. For me, so very personally, He was totally involved in my spiritual well-being and wanted me to be resolutely sure that He was in my life and setting out to make me a better Christ-follower. I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that His mighty hand was and is always at work to keep my eyes on The Cross and on His good and wonderful purposes and plans for my road ahead.
I have not since had the urge to go on-line (or anywhere else for that matter) for porn. Reverent fear of the Lord? You betcha! But I love Him so much more than I ever have in my life now, because He showed His reality through discipline. I also don’t want to let my amazing Dad down!
Reading back over this, my own story, I realize there are a lot more things I need to submit to God and this inspires me to continue handing over every part of myself, my will, my mind, my body to Him and His service.
I pray that if anyone reading this has not allowed God to deal with them that they bravely take the chance to let God do so. There is a cost, certainly, but He will alter your perceptions of things to your own benefit (and ultimately for His glory) if you give Him full reign in your life.
Whether God’s hand discipline’s you like He did me, or you are simply given renewed will-power via His Holy Spirit, I hope you are able to leave pornography alone for good and realize there are simply better things to be doing with your mind, body and soul.
Loving your God means living in and for your God with every moment you are given that has breath! You are best to not allow distractions – especially of the kind that can lead to addiction – to fill your free moments. Your problem issues could be with pornography or it could be with gambling, chatting, Facebook or Twitter for that matter. The adage, “Know your limit. Play within it.” may apply to some things that suck up your time or interests, but assuredly, there should be no room in your life for porn. Ever.
THE SON HE LOVES
a.k.a., Seymour Clearly
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:3-11
Readers: please don’t be alarmed by the rather disturbing ‘tags’ I’ve included with this post. I simply want a LOT of men to find this, even if they weren’t looking for it! I’ll do whatever it takes to alert a brother as regards the darkness and spiritual pitfalls of pornography.